For the Angels, it's about winning and waiting
ANAHEIM, Calif. — After coming so far and playing so well down the stretch, it's almost a shame that the Angels' fate is not in their own hands.
They've become scoreboard watchers, attentive not only to their games but also to the daily fortunes of the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles. A win isn't a win unless the A's or Orioles lose, too.
But that's where the Angels are with nine games left in the regular season. Their playoff chances hinge on one word: hope.
"We don't have a lot of wiggle room right now," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We know what we're up against."
What they're up against is the end of the season. As the days pass, they're faced with the fact that time is running out, and even if they keep winning, they need either the A's or O's to lose consistently. A slump would help.
After Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, which gave the Angels a three-game sweep, little changed in the wild card race. The White Sox remained a game ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central as Detroit was swept by Minnesota in a doubleheader.
The A's beat the Yankees, keeping their 2½-game edge over the Angels for the second wild card playoff spot. With nine games left, the Angels are running out of time.
Monday is an off day, then the Angels close out their home schedule with three against the Seattle Mariners. Their regular season ends with six on the road: three each at Texas and Seattle.
The A's have 10 games left: four at AL West-leading Texas starting tonight, then three each at home against the Mariners and Rangers. Oakland has lost five of seven games.
But here's where things become difficult for the Angels: If the A's go 5-5 over their remaining games and finish 91-71, the Angels would have to win eight of their final nine to finish one game better.
"It's tough," pitcher Jered Weaver said. "There's a little bit of scoreboard watching going on as we dwindle down, and it kind of sucks that we don't get to play Oakland here at the end. That would be pretty exciting.
"But we've got to do what we've got to do, and that's win ballgames. We can't worry about what other teams are doing. We've just got to go out there and keep winning."
They picked up a victory Sunday – Weaver's career-high 19th win – and are 22-9 since Aug. 22. Albert Pujols drove in two runs, giving him 101 this season and marking the 11th time in 12 seasons he has reached that mark.
"It's exciting," Weaver said of reaching 19 wins. "Obviously, to get one more than last year is great, and now I've got a couple of more (starts) to get 20. It wasn't a personal goal of mine by any means, but it was nice to get No. 19, a new career high. Any win right now is important."
Weaver has two more scheduled starts this season, next Friday at Texas and then the regular-season finale Oct. 3 in Seattle. Of course, the Angels' position will dictate if he throws against the Mariners.
If the Angels need to win the game to advance to the playoffs, Weaver will be on the mound. If they already have a wild card spot wrapped up, he would be pushed back in order to start the wild card game. If they've been eliminated by then, the only reason to start him would be if he were still in search of his 20th victory.
But at the moment, all that matters is the next game – and for the Angels, that's Tuesday night against the Mariners at Angel Stadium, Zack Greinke against Erasmo Ramirez.
They must win and keep an eye on the scoreboard. That's what their season has come to.